Governing Geoengineering Overview
The world faces growing threats due to climate change. Rising temperatures and other climate impacts already affect the livelihoods of millions of people, and further increases are likely to cause widespread suffering, especially amongst the poor and most vulnerable.
The world’s primary strategy to limit global warming is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but as of 2019, global emissions continue to rise. Without rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, infrastructure, industrial systems and lifestyles, warming of 1.5°C or more may soon become unavoidable. This would have serious consequences for every aspect of our lives, from health, to the availability of food and water, to international peace and security,
Alongside accelerated emissions cuts, a growing number of scientists and entrepreneurs are considering the potential for additional approaches to this problem, including removing very large amounts of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere, and measures to potentially cool the planet, for example by reflecting more sunlight back into space.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes these approaches as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Solar Radiation Modification (SRM). They are also known collectively as geoengineering: commonly defined as the deliberate large-scale intervention by humans in the earth system to reduce the negative effects of climate change. However, there is growing debate over the utility of this term, given the wide range of proposals it encompasses, and their varying governance requirements.
Proposed large-scale Carbon Dioxide Removal and Solar Radiation Modification approaches differ quite substantially in terms of their feasibility and acceptability. Each of them has trade-offs, risks (both known and unknown) costs and potential benefits, and they all raise difficult questions of justice, power and equity. The world needs to learn more about these approaches, not least so they can be governed effectively.
In all cases, their research, testing and consideration for potential use would need to be governed, preferably through inclusive society-wide deliberations, in which the voices of the vulnerable and most affected are given prominence. Such deliberations would need to take place not only at national, but at regional and international levels.
C2G2 was created to kickstart a global conversation about what governance might look like. What aspects of each approach need to be governed, and how? Who should be involved in taking these decisions, and how they should be taken? What rules and regulations are needed to limit potential ill effects, weigh potential trade-offs with other sustainable development objectives, and help reduce suffering?
Until now these discussions have taken place primarily in academic and research communities in a small number of countries.
C2G2’s mission is to expand this discussion to policymakers in all countries, as well as to international institutions, faith and civil society groups, the business community and journalists. People of all ages and from all ethnic, geographical and socio-economic backgrounds need to be part of this discussion, as these technologies, if every used, would affect every country and indeed everyone on the planet.
We invite you to join us on this journey.